Vermicelli Substitutes

When experimenting with recipes or when your pantry is missing an ingredient, knowing how to substitute vermicelli successfully can save your meal. Vermicelli is a type of pasta that is long, thin, and similar in appearance to spaghetti, but even thinner. It’s a versatile ingredient commonly found in a variety of cuisines ranging from Italian to Asian. However, should you find yourself without this specific type of pasta, there are several alternatives that can serve as a great stand-in in your cooking.

Among these alternatives, linguine presents a convenient option. Although slightly thicker, its ability to pair with thinner sauces—like those made with olive oil, cream, or tomatoes—makes it a practical substitute. Linguine’s long strands are capable of soaking up flavors well, ensuring a satisfying taste experience similar to that of vermicelli. In Asian dishes, rice noodles offer a gluten-free alternative, bringing a similar texture to the table, and absorbing flavors from accompanying sauces and ingredients with ease. They are also a suitable choice for anyone looking to lower the calorie and protein content in their meals.

Furthermore, some pasta shapes like capelli d’angelo, which translate to “angel hair,” are similar to vermicelli and work well as a substitute, especially in dishes where the delicate nature of pasta is highlighted. Each of these substitutes not only saves your dish but also introduces you to the varied world of pasta shapes and types, expanding your culinary repertoire. By understanding these replacements, you maintain the integrity of your meals, ensuring that a missing box of vermicelli never derails your dinner plans.

Understanding Vermicelli

Vermicelli is a form of pasta that you’ll encounter in both Italian and Asian cuisines, each with distinct characteristics. Traditionally, Italian vermicelli is slightly thicker than spaghetti and made from durum wheat. This wheat lends a firm texture and a subtle, nutty flavor.

In contrast, Asian vermicelli might be what you encounter in dishes such as stir-fries or spring rolls. It is often made from rice flour and appears thinner and more delicate. Rice vermicelli takes on a translucent appearance and has a lighter texture that absorbs flavors well.

Whether Italian or Asian, the texture of vermicelli is paramount. Italian vermicelli maintains an al dente firmness when cooked, while Asian varieties become soft and pliable.

Here’s a quick comparison to help you distinguish the two:

FeatureItalian VermicelliAsian Rice Vermicelli
Base IngredientDurum wheat flourRice flour
TextureFirm and toothsomeSoft and supple
TransparencyOpaqueTranslucent
Flavor ProfileNutty, wheatyNeutral, absorbs flavors

When preparing vermicelli, it’s crucial to align the type with your intended dish, ensuring the pasta’s texture and flavor complement the sauce and other ingredients. Remember, choosing the right vermicelli can elevate your culinary experience.

Common Types of Vermicelli

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Vermicelli is a versatile pasta that comes in various forms, each with its unique properties and uses in cooking. Generally, two primary types of vermicelli are recognized: one made from durum wheat flour, and the other using rice flour. Below you’ll find a comparison to help you differentiate them.

Durum Wheat Vermicelli: Traditionally made from durum wheat flour, sometimes with added eggs, this type of vermicelli is a staple in Italian cuisine. Your classic durum wheat vermicelli has a fine, long, and slightly thicker texture compared to angel hair pasta, yet not as thick as spaghetti.

Rice Vermicelli: Also known as rice noodles, this variety is made from rice flour and water, offering a gluten-free alternative to traditional pasta. Rice vermicelli is thinner than its wheat counterpart and has a delicate texture. It’s a common ingredient in various Asian dishes like stir-fries, spring rolls, and soups.

  • Durum Wheat Vermicelli:
    • Made with: Durum wheat flour, potentially eggs
    • Features: Slightly thicker strands, firm texture
    • Uses: Italian recipes, hearty sauces
  • Rice Vermicelli:
    • Made with: Rice flour, water
    • Features: Thin strands, soft texture when cooked
    • Uses: Asian cuisines, light broths, salads

Other variations might include noodles made from alternative flours such as buckwheat or those containing mung bean starch, further diversifying the types available to you. Each kind brings a different texture and taste profile to your dishes, allowing you to tailor your meal to your desired culinary experience.

Vermicelli Substitutes Overview

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When you’re in need of a vermicelli alternative, you have several options to consider. Each offers unique textures and flavor profiles suitable for various dishes.

  • Spaghetti: This is one of the most accessible substitutes. It’s a versatile pasta, available in various thicknesses to match the size of vermicelli required for your recipe.
  • Fedelini: Similar to vermicelli but typically found thinner, fedelini works particularly well in soups and casseroles.
  • Udon Noodles: If a thicker, chewier texture is desirable, udon can replace vermicelli in heartier dishes.
  • Soba Noodles: Made from buckwheat flour, soba noodles offer a distinctive taste and are ideal for those seeking a more nutritious alternative.

Additionally, for a gluten-free option:

  • Rice Noodles: These are similar in texture to vermicelli and work especially well in Asian-inspired dishes. A serving of rice noodle vermicelli is also lower in calories and protein than its wheat-based counterparts.

Here’s a quick reference for you:

SubstituteBest Used InGluten-Free Option
SpaghettiVarious dishesNo
FedeliniSoups, CasserolesNo
Udon NoodlesHearty dishesNo
Soba NoodlesNutrition-focusedYes
Rice NoodlesAsian dishesYes

Remember to select a substitute that complements the flavors and cooking methods of the dish you’re preparing. Whether you opt for the chew of udon or the lightness of rice noodles, you can find a suitable alternative that meets your culinary needs.

Pasta-Based Substitutes

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When you’re out of vermicelli, various Italian pasta types made from durum wheat or semolina flour can serve as suitable alternatives. These pastas complement flavors from light to robust sauces, ensuring your dish maintains its intended taste and texture.

Angel Hair Pasta

Also known as capellini or capelli d’angelo, angel hair pasta is a very thin, long strand similar to spaghetti. It’s ideal for pairing with light sauces such as simple olive oil-based or tomato sauces, due to its delicate structure which allows it to cook to al dente quite quickly.

Spaghetti

A staple of Italian cuisine, spaghetti offers versatility and is readily available. It stands up well to thick tomato-based sauces and is robust enough to toss with olive oil and simple seasonings. This pasta can replace vermicelli in most Italian dishes, maintaining traditional flavors and textures.

Linguine

Slightly flatter and wider than vermicelli, linguine works exceptionally well with seafood dishes or with pesto. The flat surface of linguine makes it adept at holding onto more robust sauces, marrying well with the ingredients for a cohesive dish.

Fettuccine

Fettuccine‘s thicker and flatter ribbons are best suited to hearty sauces, such as a rich carbonara or creamy alfredo. It provides a satisfying chewiness that stands in contrast to the finer vermicelli but is exceptional for capturing creamy textures.

Bucatini

Bucatini resembles thick spaghetti but with a distinctive hollow center. It pairs well with both light and hearty sauces, with the tube shape adding an interesting textural dimension. It’s a top choice for classic Italian recipes that call for a substantial pasta presence with tomato-based sauces.

Fedelini

Fedelini, being one of the thinnest forms of pasta, is slightly thicker than angel hair pasta and is a fitting substitute for dishes requiring a fine pasta to complement light sauces and delicate flavors, especially when you prefer your pasta to carry a subtle taste profile with a light coating of olive oil or other dressing.

Asian Noodle Substitutes

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When looking for an alternative to vermicelli in Asian dishes, you have a variety of noodle options that can provide similar or complementary textures and flavors. Your choice will depend on the specific requirements of your recipe—whether it calls for the delicate subtlety of rice noodles in a Vietnamese Pho or the boldness of soba in a Japanese stir-fry.

Rice Noodles

Rice noodles, made from rice flour and water, are a great substitute for vermicelli, especially in Vietnamese and Thai cuisine. Thin rice noodles are ideal for dishes like Pho and Pad Thai, providing a slightly chewy texture when cooked. They also blend beautifully with stir-fries and noodle salads.

  • Best used in: Stir-fries, Vietnamese Pho, Pad Thai, Noodle Salads
  • Texture: Slightly chewy when cooked
  • Base Ingredient: Rice flour

Cellophane Noodles

Also known as glass noodles or bean thread noodles, cellophane noodles are transparent noodles that are typically made from mung bean starch. They take on the flavor of the ingredients they’re cooked with and offer a slippery texture.

  • Best used in: Stir-fries, Asian salads
  • Texture: Slippery, delicate
  • Also Known As: Glass noodles, bean thread noodles

Soba Noodles

Made from buckwheat flour, soba noodles carry a distinctive earthy flavor. They are higher in protein compared to many other noodles and serve well in both cold and hot Japanese dishes.

  • Best used in: Cold noodle dishes, Japanese stir-fries
  • Texture: Firm, can be grainy
  • Base Ingredient: Buckwheat flour

Udon Noodles

Udon noodles are thick, wheat-based Japanese noodles with a dense, chewy texture. They are versatile and can replace vermicelli in many dishes, including soups and stir-fries.

  • Best used in: Soups, stir-fries, ramen noodles
  • Texture: Chewy, dense
  • Cuisine: Japanese

Shirataki Noodles

For a gluten-free and healthy alternative, shirataki noodles are an excellent choice. Made from the konjac yam, they are almost calorie-free and work well in various Asian dishes.

  • Best used in: Gluten-free recipes, healthy alternatives
  • Texture: Gelatinous, chewy
  • Special Notes: Gluten-free

Gluten-Free and Healthier Alternatives

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Exploring the realm of gluten-free and healthier alternatives to traditional vermicelli doesn’t mean you have to compromise on texture or taste. Below, you’ll find curated options that cater to both your gluten sensitivity and your palate.

Rice Vermicelli

Rice Vermicelli, made from rice flour, provides a gluten-free option that is notably a staple in various Asian dishes. Its texture adapts well to your recipes, be it as a base for a bowl of fried rice vermicelli or a spring roll filling.

Buckwheat Noodles

Despite its name, Buckwheat is unrelated to wheat and offers gluten-free noodles high in nutrients. These noodles carry a hearty flavor ideal for a more robust, healthier meal, often found in Japanese soba dishes.

Mung Bean Starch Noodles

Mung Bean Starch Noodles, also known as glass or cellophane noodles, are translucent with a slippery texture. They absorb flavors well, making them perfect for your stir-fries and cold salads, all while being a healthy, gluten-free alternative.

Sweet Potato Starch Noodles

Korean cuisine often highlights Sweet Potato Starch Noodles, a gluten-free choice rich in flavor. Perfect for dishes like Japchae, they provide a chewy texture and are a healthier option due to their sweet potato content.

Corn Pasta

If you’re craving an Italian pasta dish and need a gluten-free substitute, Corn Pasta made from corn flour is your go-to. It offers a similar consistency to traditional pasta and is an excellent vehicle for your favorite sauces and seasonings.

Choosing the Right Substitute for Your Dish

When selecting a substitute for vermicelli, your primary focus should be on achieving a similar texture and flavor profile that complements your dish. Here are key considerations to guide you:

  • Texture: Linguine, although slightly thicker, can serve as a suitable substitute, providing a similar feel. For dishes requiring a distinct shape, consider bucatini, which is like spaghetti but with a hollow center.
  • Flavor: Stick with pasta made from durum wheat if your dish can accommodate a bolder taste. Otherwise, for a milder flavor, Chinese rice noodle vermicelli is an excellent gluten-free choice.
  • Cooking Time: Adjustments may be needed as pasta varieties have different cooking times. Make sure to test for doneness to match the original recipe’s texture.
  • Dish-Specific Recommendations: Substitute Best Used In Note Linguine Light sauces like marinara Good for olive oil, cream, tomatoes Bucatini Hearty sauces Its hollow center holds sauces well Rice Vermicelli Gluten-free or light dishes Lower in calories and protein

Bear in mind the context of your dish. If it relies heavily on the delicate nature of vermicelli, choose a substitute that won’t overpower other ingredients. For richer, cream-based sauces, a thicker pasta like linguine or bucatini offers a comforting bite that carries these heavier flavors well. Rice vermicelli is more appropriate for dishes where a lighter, gluten-free alternative is desired.

Nutritional Comparisons

When selecting a substitute for vermicelli, it is important to consider the nutritional content to meet your dietary requirements. The following comparisons will help you choose an alternative that aligns with your health goals, whether you are looking for a gluten-free option or need to manage your calorie intake.

Caloric Content

Different vermicelli substitutes vary in caloric content, which can impact your dietary goals. For example:

  • Spaghetti: Approx. 220 calories per cup (cooked)
  • Rice Stick Noodles: Approx. 192 calories per cup (cooked)

Protein and Carbohydrate Comparison

Protein and carbohydrate content is an essential aspect of nutrition:

  • Spaghetti: Generally has about 8 grams of protein and 43 grams of carbohydrates per cup.
  • Rice Stick Noodles: Contains about 1.5 grams of protein and 44 grams of carbohydrates per cup.

Vitamins and Minerals

Substitutes for vermicelli can also supply varying amounts of vitamins and minerals:

  • Whole Wheat Spaghetti: Higher in dietary fiber and can provide more B vitamins and iron than standard spaghetti or rice noodles.

Allergy Considerations

  • Gluten: Traditional pasta like spaghetti contains gluten, while rice stick noodles are a suitable gluten-free alternative.
  • Egg Allergies: Some pastas may contain eggs, so it is important to check labels if you have an egg allergy.

Dietary Preferences

Catering to different dietary preferences is easier when you know the details:

  • Vegan/Vegetarian: Most pastas made without eggs are vegan and vegetarian-friendly.
  • Keto-Friendly: Look for low-carb alternatives like shirataki noodles if following a keto diet.

Using Substitutes in Recipes

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When substituting for vermicelli in recipes, consider the intended dish’s texture and flavor profile. The right substitute will offer a similar mouthfeel and absorb sauces and dressings effectively, ensuring the dish maintains its character even with the switch.

Soups and Broths

For soups such as chicken noodle soup or Vietnamese pho, noodles like spaghetti or rice stick noodles can adapt well. Ensure they are cooked al dente to retain a firm texture that mirrors vermicelli, without becoming too soft when simmered in broth.

Salads

In noodle salads or Italian pasta salad, options such as capellini (angel hair pasta) or linguine maintain a delicate structure, important for the dish to hold dressing and mix evenly with other ingredients. Always rinse the pasta after cooking to stop it from sticking and to cool it down quickly for your salad.

Casseroles

For oven-baked casseroles, match the thickness of vermicelli with substitutes like fedelini or spaghettini to achieve a similar baking outcome. These thinner pastas will cook through without overpowering the dish with a doughy texture.

Stir-Fries

In stir-fries, such as Asian cuisine staples like fried rice vermicelli, use linguine or bucatini to complement the robust flavors and varied textures. Cook the noodles separately before adding them to the stir-fry to ensure they don’t clump and they absorb the sauce effectively.

Sauces and Toppings

With tomato-based sauces, pesto, or lemon sauce, opt for spaghettini or capellini as substitutes. They hold onto sauces well due to their surface area and offer a comparable mouthfeel to vermicelli. Pair the pasta with the sauce intensity; lighter pasta for delicate sauces like pesto or lemon, and slightly thicker pasta for hearty tomato sauces.

Conclusion

In your quest to find vermicelli substitutes, you have several viable options to choose from depending on your needs and the culinary context. Fedelini and spaghetti stand out for their similarity in shape and texture to traditional vermicelli, making them excellent for Italian dishes where vermicelli is typically used.

For gluten-free or lighter alternatives, rice vermicelli fits the bill perfectly while introducing an element of Asian cuisine to your dishes. It’s particularly well-suited for stir-fries, salads, and soups. Another suitable substitute is linguine, which, while wider than vermicelli, can be used in most recipes calling for the latter.

In more delicate dishes, capelli d’angelo (angel hair pasta) can be your substitute of choice due to its fine and delicate structure, which is an excellent stand-in for vermicelli in more refined plates.

Here is a quick reference guide:

SubstituteBest Used In
FedeliniSoups, Casseroles
SpaghettiVersatile; various dishes
Rice VermicelliStir-frys, Salads, Soups
LinguineHeavier sauce dishes
Capelli d’angeloDelicate, light dishes

When substituting, remember to consider cooking times and sauce pairings – these can affect the end result of your dish. Armed with this information, you can confidently navigate the absence of vermicelli in your pantry and still create delicious, satisfying meals.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Finding the right vermicelli substitute can transform your meal while aligning with dietary preferences or restrictions. Here’s a guide to common alternatives.

What are suitable alternatives to vermicelli for making spring rolls?

For spring rolls, rice paper is the traditional wrap, but when filling, you can use alternatives like shredded cabbage or lettuce in place of vermicelli noodles for crunch and freshness.

How can I replace vermicelli in pasta dishes?

Thin spaghetti or angel hair pasta can be a direct substitute for vermicelli in Italian-style recipes, offering a similar texture and cooking time.

What can I use instead of vermicelli if I need a vegan option?

Most vermicelli noodles, especially those made from rice, are inherently vegan. However, you can opt for bean thread noodles or shirataki noodles as alternatives for a diverse vegan option.

Are there healthy options to substitute for rice vermicelli?

Whole grain pasta varieties, such as whole wheat spaghetti, provide more fiber and nutrients compared to traditional rice vermicelli, thus offering a healthier alternative.

For dishes like Pad Thai, what’s a good alternative to rice noodles?

Flat rice noodles are usually the go-to for Pad Thai, but if those aren’t available, linguine or fettuccine can provide a similar chew and mouthfeel.

Is orzo a viable replacement for vermicelli in recipes?

Orzo can be an interesting alternative, especially in soups and salads, as it has a rice-like shape and a pasta-like consistency that complements a variety of dishes.

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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
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